Donald Trump Will Be Called to Testify in Trial About His 'University'

The presidential hopeful will be an "essential" witness, the AG says.

— -- The New York attorney general suggests that Donald Trump may be taking the stand soon in a court case about the now-defunct Trump University.

The news follows a New York court decision that the lawsuit filed by the attorney general against the former for-profit institution will proceed to trial, after a settlement could not be reached.

"I am very pleased the judge has indicated her intention to move as expeditiously as possible to trial, as thousands of Mr. Trump’s alleged victims have been waiting years for relief from his fraud," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement released this afternoon.

"We believe that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sexton will be essential witnesses at trial. As we will prove in court, Donald Trump and his sham for-profit college defrauded thousands of students out of millions of dollars," Schneiderman's statement said, referencing Michael Sexton, the man who approached Trump about starting the program.

The legal team for the Trump Organization, which is separate from his presidential campaign, released a statement criticizing the attorney general's actions.

"We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has yet again rejected the Attorney General’s attempt to avoid a trial. Although there are several procedural matters that remain open, we do not understand why the Attorney General objects to the jury trial we have requested; especially where the Attorney General purports to represent the very people of the City of New York it fears will decide his claims," the statement said.

Trump University first started in October 2004, according to court records.

Potential students took part in a free seminar, "at which Trump University instructors would recommend signing up for a three-day seminar which cost approximately $1,500 at which the instructors would teach certain real estate strategies," a 2014 court decision states.

From there, enrollees would allegedly be urged to sign up for the Trump Elite Program, which included year-long mentorships with a starting cost of $20,000, the decision states.

The program changed its name after the New York State Education Department contacted it in 2010 stressing that it was not licensed in the state. Shortly after, it changed its name to "Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC."

Trump has called any claims of fraud patently false and unsubstantiated, in the court papers. He has repeated the sentiment during his presidential campaign.

"It’s a very small case, it’s a civil case. It’s not a big deal and I will win it in court," Trump said at a rally in early March. "It'll cost me more money to win it in court than I could settle for, in my opinion. But I will win it in court."

The lawsuit from the New York Attorney General's office was filed in 2013. Initially, the state supreme court ruled that only claims from 2010 on would be allowed, but the Attorney General appealed that decision. In early March, a court ruled that claims dating back to 2007 can go to trial.

Under the expanded timeline, the AG's office believes up to 5,000 people nationwide could have claims against the company. The lawsuit is seeking $40 million in damages for those impacted.

A Manhattan supreme court judge will set a trial schedule shortly, after the hearing today failed to resolve the matter.

Two active class action lawsuits in California are making similar claims.